Friday, April 06, 2007

Brits Told Bush To Back Off

Just when I thought I was finished blogging for the day, I came across an article from tomorrow's Guardian, already online, which claims Bush offered military action on behalf of the 15 British seamen captured by Iran - and Britain told him to back off.
In the first few days after the captives were seized and British diplomats were getting no news from Tehran on their whereabouts, Pentagon officials asked their British counterparts: what do you want us to do? They offered a series of military options, a list which remains top secret given the mounting risk of war between the US and Iran. But one of the options was for US combat aircraft to mount aggressive patrols over Iranian Revolutionary Guard bases in Iran, to underline the seriousness of the situation.

The British declined the offer and said the US could calm the situation by staying out of it. London also asked the US to tone down military exercises that were already under way in the Gulf. Three days before the capture of the 15 Britons , a second carrier group arrived having been ordered there by president George Bush in January. The aim was to add to pressure on Iran over its nuclear programme and alleged operations inside Iraq against coalition forces.
At the request of the British, the two US carrier groups, totalling 40 ships plus aircraft, modified their exercises to make them less confrontational.

The British government also asked the US administration from Mr Bush down to be cautious in its use of rhetoric, which was relatively restrained throughout.(Emphasis mine - C)
Even Blair has figured out that Bush's idea of diplomacy is to start a war, that he and his coterie of supporters and officials are in love with war, and that they are far more dangerous to the world's stability than any number of Iranians.

The article goes on to say that the Iranians are utterly convinced that the UK and US are behind terror attacks by sepratists in Iran and are very aware that had this been an incident involving US personnel, there would now be a war on.

But even so, the consensus between all involved is that the decision to seize the Britons was taken locally, and was not part of a grander scheme cooked up in Tehran.
"My best guess is that this was a local incident which became an international incident," said one British source closely involved in the crisis.

Both sides had been watching each other closely for years across the disputed line separating the Iranian and Iraqi sides of the Shatt al-Arab waterway and the northern Gulf beyond and British officials say that Iranian boats regularly infringe on foreign waters.

The senior Iranian source meanwhile, claimed there had been three British incursions into Iranian waters in the three months leading up to the capture and that the decision to detain the British naval crew on March 23 was taken by a regional Revolutionary Guard commander, responsible for the waterway.

...There is also general agreement in London and Tehran that once the crisis had been triggered it took nearly two weeks to untangle, because their release had to be agreed by all the key players in the perpetual poker game that passes for government in Tehran. But those players could not be reached because they were scattered around the country for the No Rouz (new year) holiday.
Top Iranian officials got back to their desks on Tuesday to find their in-boxes full and phones ringing off the hook with messages urging the sailors' return, from such diverse sources as Syria, Columbia, Iraq and the Pope. Blair's top foreign policy adviser, Sir Nigel Sheinwald, managed to speak directly to his Iranian counterpart, Ari Larijani, for the first time on Tuesday and on the same day the Iranian supreme national security council took the decision for the sailor's release.

All of which shows that no amount of belligerent sabre-waving could have had any greater or faster effect than diplomacy - no-one was home to make decisions, no matter what happened. At also shows that, far from humiliating for the UK and Europe, their diplomatic pressure caused the Iranians to release the sailors at the first available opportunity. Chew on that, Mr. Krauthammer and all of you others who are so disappointed that jaw-jaw worked and you didn't get your war-war.

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